Are restrictions on homemade guns based on bogus data?

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

Homemade guns are an American tradition. People have been building their own firearms since before this country was even a country. While I don’t have any numbers, I’m pretty sure a few of those homemade guns were used to fight the British during the American Revolution and they’ve been part of the American landscape ever since.

Now, though, President Joe Biden has decided to try and crackdown on these weapons. The question is, how much of his effort to go after homemade guns, so-called ghost guns, is based on bad information?

From our friends at The Truth About Guns:

The entire “ghost gun” drama was started by Carlos A. Canino, the former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division. In 2020, anti-gun activists asked Canino about the prevalence of homemade firearms in California. An earlier study said 30% of the guns recovered by ATF in California were unserialized “ghost guns,” but Canino said the real numbers were actually much higher. “Forty-one percent, so almost half our cases we’re coming across are these ‘ghost guns,’” Canino said. That was all it took.

A story by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project published last week showed that the ATF cannot verify Canino’s comments.

“I contacted the Los Angeles Field Division earlier today after your initial email, and their Public Information Officer was unable to verify any figures provided in 2019 by former-SAC Canino without knowing the time-period(s) he used for his comments,” an ATF spokesman said in the email.

I remember this statement and I remember that sounding awfully high. Especially in light of what we were hearing out of many other regions.

However, that’s not the only question.

After the story was published, a staff member for a U.S. Congressman came forward. This whistleblower, who asked that their name be withheld from publication, revealed even more problems about the ATF’s “ghost gun” statistics.

The staff member asked the U.S. Justice Department for “ghost gun” data, since both the ATF and the Bureau of Justice Statistics fall under the DOJ’s purview.

“Because it is not currently a federal crime to own either a homemade firearm or a braced pistol, DOJ claims they do not have accurate/comprehensive databases to track their use in crimes. They compile information from state and local police units – but that information is only as good as what is reported,” the whistleblower said in an email.

On this, I have to back up the whistleblower’s statement.

Last year, I reached out to the ATF asking for statistics on homemade guns. Their response was basically that they didn’t have any. Here’s part of the reply I received from April Langwell with the Department of Justice:

ATF cannot provide a number of recovered crime guns that were privately made.  For a number of reasons, ATF does not believe that the number of privately made firearms that has been reported to ATF would be indicative of, or representative of, the number of privately made firearms actually recovered by law enforcement.

Now, some people are skeptical regarding anonymous whistleblowers, but this is a named official with the USDOJ speaking with a journalist on the record.

It’s basically the same thing.

Yet, as TTAG notes, just days later, the President of the United States issued an executive order to combat this alleged scourge.

So it really does look like much of this started because of off-the-cuff statements by ATF officials that the ATF itself can verify. What’s problematic is that it doesn’t appear Canino was reprimanded for his unsupportable statement, either.

He’s not alone, though. ATF officials have been pronouncing doom and gloom about homemade guns well since Canino’s statement. They offer vague statements about how it’s a “growing” threat or whatever but provide little in the way of actual context.

Canino’s, despite the lack of context, gave us something of a glimpse, but since it can’t be supported, how much was total BS?

My guess is that most of it was since it reflects nothing we’ve seen or heard since that does have any kind of context.

So now, President Biden is basically poised to make homemade guns that much more difficult for law-abiding citizens to build but will actually do nothing to really impact criminals. After all, it looks like, despite the rhetoric, there’s no evidence to suggest criminals prefer these firearms over traditionally manufactured guns.

Shocking, isn’t it?